MANILA, Philippines (AP) — An Indonesian sailor escaped Wednesday from his Abu Sayyaf abductors in the southern Philippines after they threatened to behead him, officials said.
Sixteen other foreign hostages, including nine Indonesians, remain captives of the violent Muslim extremist group in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
Maj. Filemon Tan, a regional military spokesman, said Mohammad Sayfan, 28, escaped in a mangrove area in Sulu province after he was threatened with beheading. He was rescued by local residents who found him floating and trapped in fishnets along the shoreline.
Sayfan was one of seven crew members abducted from a tugboat near the Philippine border in June.
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed in May to carry out coordinated patrols. The three are concerned the kidnappings, piracy and other crime could undermine commerce in the region.
A total of 24 Indonesian have been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf this year, highlighting weak security in the Celebes Sea that borders Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Ten of the hostages were freed after ransoms were reportedly paid.
The Philippines says it has stepped up a military offensive against the militants, who earlier this year beheaded two Canadians it had held since September.
Tan said that besides the Indonesians, five Malaysians, one Norwegian, a Dutchman, and at least five Filipino hostages are still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.
Washington and Manila list the Abu Sayyaf, which has more than 400 armed fighters, as a terrorist organization.